Loss cone evolution and particle escape in collapsing magnetic trap models in solar flares

Solmaz Eradat Oskoui, Thomas Neukirch, Keith James Grady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Context. Collapsing magnetic traps (CMTs) have been suggested as one possible mechanism responsible for the acceleration of high-energy particles during solar flares. An important question regarding the CMT acceleration mechanism is which particle orbits escape and which are trapped during the time evolution of a CMT. While some models predict the escape of the majority of particle orbits, other more sophisticated CMT models show that, in particular, the highest-energy particles remain trapped at all times. The exact prediction is not straightforward because both the loss cone angle and the particle orbit pitch angle evolve in time in a CMT. Aims. Our aim is to gain a better understanding of the conditions leading to either particle orbit escape or trapping in CMTs. Methods. We present a detailed investigation of the time evolution of particle orbit pitch angles in the CMT model of Giuliani and collaborators and compare this with the time evolution of the loss cone angle. The non-relativistic guiding centre approximation is used to calculate the particle orbits. We also use simplified models to corroborate the findings of the particle orbit calculations. Results. We find that there is a critical initial pitch angle for each field line of a CMT that divides trapped and escaping particle orbits. This critical initial pitch angle is greater than the initial loss cone angle, but smaller than the asymptotic (final) loss cone angle for that field line. As the final loss cone angle in CMTs is larger than the initial loss cone angle, particle orbits with pitch angles that cross into the loss cone during their time evolution will escape whereas all other particle orbits are trapped. We find that in realistic CMT models, Fermi acceleration will only dominate in the initial phase of the CMT evolution and, in this case, can reduce the pitch angle, but that betatron acceleration will dominate for later stages of the CMT evolution leading to a systematic increase of the pitch angle. Whether a particle escapes or remains trapped depends critically on the relative importance of the two acceleration mechanisms, which cannot be decoupled in more sophisticated CMT models.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA73
Number of pages12
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Early online date12 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Sun: corona
  • Sun: activity
  • Sun: flares


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